Modern Journalist Toolkit 17/Digital nomad: Freelancing on the road

Modern Journalist Toolkit 17/Digital nomad: Freelancing on the road

When I saw this VW van in California a few weeks ago, I thought immediately about a recent article about #vanlife. Somebody who thought she could do her job remotely was surprised to find out that she couldn’t work on her computer during a bumpy ride, nor connect for calls in the middle of a […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 14: Saving and organizing clips

Modern Journalist Toolkit 14: Saving and organizing clips

Way back in the day, our freelance ancestors clipped their articles out of paper magazines and newspapers with scissors, and made photocopies to send to editors. They sent the clips (or cuttings) with a system called snail mail. It cost money and it took days–many thousands of minutes longer than the emails and links we […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 12: What’s in my bag

Modern Journalist Toolkit 12: What’s in my bag

When you’re out on a freelance writing assignment, you want to find a good balance between bringing everything you might need and packing light. I normally like to keep all my gear in a regular backpack. Some of you may disagree, and opt for something that is more stylish or that more plainly says, “Hey! […]

She blinded me with science

She blinded me with science

Despite my lack of technical training, I’ve interviewed a fair number of scientists. Right at the start of our conversation, I tell them that I don’t have a science background, and ask them to please explain things to me in layperson’s terms. Usually they get it that I’m not a colleague and keep things simple; […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 11: Freelancing in the era of Trump with Ray Joseph

Modern Journalist Toolkit 11: Freelancing in the era of Trump with Ray Joseph

“Alternative facts.” Real-time verification. Journalists arrested or alienated when covering the president. If the 45th U.S. president is in power for four years, we have 47 months to go. What does Donald Trump mean for us as freelance writers? Some important insights about working in the new now come from those who have worked in […]

Setting 2017 freelance writer goals

Setting 2017 freelance writer goals

If you’ve already signed up for the 2017 goal-setting challenge for freelance writers, watch the video below to get yourself ready. Otherwise you can click here to register for the goal-setting challenge: www.rebeccalweber.com/2017goals If you’re not feeling like looking back at 2016, scroll below to read about my own resistance to this exercise. When it […]

7 most popular posts of 2016

7 most popular posts of 2016

Would you be surprised to hear that this Backstory blog was originally conceived of as a place to post comics about what goes on behind the scenes when writing articles? A few years ago, I was not imagining that I would be making videos, teaching freelance writers how to pitch, leading goal-planning challenges, or even […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 10: Color Me Quick

Modern Journalist Toolkit 10: Color Me Quick

One antidote to overresearching, overreporting, overthinking, and overwriting is a really tight deadline. This video offers some takeaway tips on quick reporting in the field: For many freelancers, breaking news is part of a mix that keeps things fresh and exciting. For writers who are used to working in isolation, there’s a satisfying sense of […]

“Just” an interview vs. THE interview

“Just” an interview vs. THE interview

During a very long delay at the Atlanta airport, way back when, I sat on the floor and read my first longform interview in Rolling Stone magazine. It was my foray into reading adult publications. I was enthralled by the in-depth conversations about the creative process, life on the road, and the surprisingly unglamorous backstories […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 6: Yusuf Omar on Reporting with Snapchat

Modern Journalist Toolkit 6: Yusuf Omar on Reporting with Snapchat

Yusuf Omar is a cell-phone trailblazer. He finds unconventional uses for apps like Snapchat, Facebook Live, and 360 video for telling serious news stories, most of which are viewed on small screens. Omar is the new mobile editor at the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest English newspapers, with a print circulation of more than […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 5: Taking Notes & Recording Interviews

Modern Journalist Toolkit 5: Taking Notes & Recording Interviews

I put fresh batteries into my tape recorder shortly before I hopped on the DC Metro for my interview with Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland. I’d pulled a personal favor with somebody who in turn asked for a favor to get me the private face time, and I’d done all my due diligence […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 4: How to Make a Phone Call

Modern Journalist Toolkit 4: How to Make a Phone Call

Right after I finished this video about making phone calls, my cell phone company announced that it is raising its rates by 40 percent. I’m unlikely to get around such a major price hike by relying on one of the myriad phone apps I’ve tried, such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber. They have a variety […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 3: Home Office Hacks for Writers

Modern Journalist Toolkit 3: Home Office Hacks for Writers

Like most freelancers these days, my office is where my laptop and cell phone are. I do well with a home office/out of the office split. At home, I have lunch the way I like it, and a puppy who likes to go for mid-morning walks. At a cafe, I have the buzz of people […]

How to read a publication like your future editor wants you to

How to read a publication like your future editor wants you to

(Scroll down to watch the video!) Not sure why your story ideas aren’t selling? If you ask an editor for advice on the best way for a freelance writer to break in to his or her publication, they often have the same response: “Read it first.” Unfortunately, some writers don’t take that super simple advice to […]

Are you up for a writing challenge?

Are you up for a writing challenge?

The 12×12 Write Now Challenge 2016 begins next Monday, 11 January. Despite the deluge of tweeted resolutions and planning widgets that proliferate at this time of year, I’ve yet to see a plan or process that really meets the unique needs of freelance writers. Over time, I’ve created my own approach to reviewing what I’ve done and […]

2015’s best video about writing and breakthroughs

This video was filmed in 2013, but it has new resonance in 2015, which seems to have been the Year of Ta-Nehisi Coates. For every (frustrated) writer who wants an early draft to be their best, consider that this MacArthur Genius also never gets that “perfect thing” in his head out on to paper. Perseverance […]

Keep calm and follow up

Keep calm and follow up

A fellow writer asked for the best piece of advice I had for freelancers. Follow up, follow up, follow up.  As soon as I send something (a story pitch, a request for an interview, whatever), I schedule the follow ups on my calendar. This diffuses any emotional reaction to nonresponse/silence, and keeps things moving along on schedule. […]

On My Bookshelf: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

On My Bookshelf: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

If the title doesn’t tip you off, Elizabeth Gilbert’s theories about creativity and ideas are a bit woo-woo. Sometimes, seriously woo-woo. But most of her new book Big Magic is an easy-to-read take from somebody who is serious about her dedication to writing, and who sees creativity as a guiding life force rather than as […]

3 ways to become a better writer

3 ways to become a better writer

On the last morning of a silent meditation retreat, my teacher announced that he would tell us the three most important things about continuing a meditation practice at home. For a week, we had had a respite from daily life: no talking, no internet, no personal sagas, no decisions about what to do next. The normal […]

Which comes first, the story or the market?

Which comes first, the story or the market?

Looking for story ideas first and then scrambling for market suggestions often doesn’t work out in the long run. It likely took me a while to figure this out because that method is so common amongst freelance writers that it appears as if it’s the way things are done. Freelance forums typically have a bunch […]